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What is the Average Life Expectancy for Untreated Sleep Apnea?

It's always best to get your sleep apnea diagnosed earlier to avoid any further health problems. Read more here on how it relates to life expectancy and how you can get diagnosed at home today.

Untreated sleep apnea is a serious disorder which can have long-term effects on a person's health and, in severe cases, their life expectancy. Unfortunately, it is more common than you may think, with 10% of Australians suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea. Of that, 80% go undiagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disorder.

What is Sleep Apnea?

People with severe sleep apnea experience repetitive stops and starts of their breathing throughout the evening, leaving them struggling for air and waking up repeatedly throughout the night - which can cause a restless night and a groggy morning.

The main symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud Snoring
  • Gasping for air during the night
  • A dry mouth when waking
  • Daytime sleepiness or hypersomnia

The main risk factors include age, weight, and gender. For example, men are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

There are three main types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when muscles in the throat relax and obstruct the upper airways.

Woman trying to sleep with partner snoring - NSW CPAP

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the correct signals to the body to breathe during sleep. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Life Expectancy?

When a person with severe sleep apnea or OSA stops breathing, their nervous system reacts by sending repeated adrenaline rushes. This jolt of energy causes them to wake up and begin breathing. However, in most cases, the person remains unconscious. This moment of shock causes an increased heart rate and high blood pressure.

In the long term, this repeated stress and lack of stress in patients with untreated sleep apnea can lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of death.

If untreated, sleep apnea can significantly impact a person's life expectancy by several years.

A study conducted at Yale University by the American Thoracic Society found that people who had suffered from untreated sleep apnea for more than five years had a 30% higher risk of a heart attack.

Meanwhile, a study published in Sleep, conducted by the Department of Population Health Sciences and Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and led by Terry Young PhD, found that over 18 years, 42% of the people who were diagnosed with sleep apnea and had died, had died from cardiovascular disease.

Because of this, people who suffer from sleep apnea can expect several years shorter life expectancy due to heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.

However with proper diagnosis and treatment, people with sleep apnea can receive relief and prevent long-term health effects such as heart disease, cardiovascular issues and, more importantly, early death.

Can You Treat Sleep Apnea?

Yes, sleep apnea can be treated. When treated, many people alleviated most of the disorder's symptoms. While it is suggested that you can alleviate the symptoms of OSA with lifestyle changes and weight loss, there are more direct ways to treat sleep apnea.

Woman running in the park to improve her lifestyle - NSW CPAP

People commonly treat sleep apnea with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). CPAP machines create air pressure that opens a person's obstructed airway. By filtering and pressurising air, CPAP machines deliver it to you via a face mask or nose mask. The muscles in your throat are gently kept from moving into your airway by the continuous flow of air.

CPAP machines are 100% effective for preventing sleep apnea and help people suffering get back to their old selves.

At-Home Sleep Test

A sleep test at home is the easiest way to determine if you suffer from sleep apnea. You don't need a doctor's recommendation, and it's easy to do. The device is wire-free and does not require any restricting equipment. Instead, you simply place it on your fingertip or on your chin. A qualified Sleep and Respiratory Physician will review the results and  the device has been clinically validated.

Are you ready to get started? You can order the at-home sleep test here. You will receive your test kit, including the at-home test sensor and an activation code for the companion app. Using the app before bed can help you record your sleep. After 1-3 nights of the test (depending on the model ordered), you will receive a sleep report within 3-5 days. You can discuss this with your Health Care Professional to determine your next steps.

Sleep test at home - NSW CPAP
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